Is suffering the drama of life?

Contribution by Isabel Hernández Negrín, Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain.

First we must differentiate pain from suffering.  A pain appears when something hits us strongly, like a loss of some kind or a drastic and unlooked for change.  That kind of pain is natural, I venture to say biological.  Suffering however, does not necessarily depend on external circumstances, but on how we deal with these situations, our attitude towards what happens. 

Here we want to focus on certain aspects of suffering.

Despite the fact that the most usual thing is to believe that we suffer because we are victims of external situations, the truth is that it is us, with our attitudes, emotional routines and thoughts and judgements that punish ourselves.

We believe that the bad things we feel are due to external causes and we attribute to them the ability to make us feel so badly: the relationship that I have with my partner, the spite of a colleague, the abuse of a boss, the idleness of a child, the impatience of a colleague, ill-intentioned people and a whole range of other situations.  But, ask yourself for a moment – if I felt well, would I reproach my partner for something, even if they continued to do the same as always?

It is what you feel that makes you suffer.

And suffering has a great deal to do with putting up resistance to what I dislike, with thinking that I do not deserve what happens to me.  My defensive (resistant) attitude makes me see everything as black.  There is no room for happiness, when we think and feel that responsibility for our suffering is outside us.

Thinking like that leaves us in powerlessness, sadness and rage.  On the other hand, life or the world are not there to make us happy.  It is us, throughout our lives, who can attain that happiness, that peace that we all desire.  And that is possible.

Yesterday, a friend was telling me that she had discovered that when something did not work out as she hoped or desired, she blamed someone else.  Observing herself in that context, she discovered, that it was her, with her attitude that caused the other person to behave in the way that she then disliked and that is how the issue arose.

Once she saw that she felt a great relief.  When I can see the cause of the suffering in me, I relax, I feel satisfied and I start to understand how to unravel the tangle of my relationships.  That is why it is so important to see our role in the drama of our life.       

Prior to this discovery, she was unable to see it because she denied that she had anything to do with the situation that was created.   Nor did it occur to her.  Now, however, she has an opportunity to change her way of interpreting it and her powerlessness has given way to a more consistent and friendly way of behaving towards herself and towards the other person.

We believe that suffering is a substantial part of our life, but actually it is the result of a way of living life.  And that way can change if we pay attention to the cause of our drama, to the urges that drive us, like a puppet, to react without reflection.

That state of ignorance about the origin of my suffering is the driver in the drama of my life.

This drama does not just dwell within in me, but extends to everything I touch and beyond.

It is vitally important to realise this, because it is the origin of our peace and that of everyone else.  Peace is just as infectious as negative feelings.

Feeling responsibility about our own suffering is the start of a new life, without drama, with empathy and affection towards ourselves, but also curiosity towards others.  When we consciously get rid of the demands we place on ourselves, prejudices, groundless expectations, inherited beliefs and other roots and causes of suffering, we become less nit-picking and demanding of others.  When I can be kind about my mistakes, and do not blame myself, I stop looking for outside factors to blame and the world, as if by magic, becomes kinder.    

And what is it that has changed?   Just me…and what I affect.   If I change, my world will change.  Without any drama!